________________ CM . . . . Volume XXI Number 13 . . . . November 28, 2014


Back to Batoche.

Cheryl Chad.
Regina, SK: Your Nickel's Worth Publishing, 2014.
128 pp., trade pbk., epub & mobi, $12.95 (pbk.).
ISBN 978-1-927756-20-1 (pbk.), ISBN 978-1-927756-21-8 (epub), ISBN 978-1-927756-22-5 (mobi).

Subject Headings:
Batoche, Battle of, Batoche, Sask., 1885-Juvenile fiction.
Riel Rebellion, 1885-Juvenile fiction.

Grades 4-7 / Ages 9-12.

Review by Ruth McMahon.

**½ /4



It's so quiet in the church right now that I can hear Izzy's fiddle as he finishes his last number and the muted patter of the crowd's applause. I bite my bottom lip and slowly give a half turn to the watch's winding mechanism, pretty much the same way I've seen Dad wind our grandfather clock at home. I do this three times, then hold the watch up to my ear. Kaeleigh and Liam lean in closer to me to listen. We can hear a faint ticking and slowly, in spite of the dirt and grime, the hands of the watch begin to move.

Tick. Tick. Tick.

Suddenly, the air around us shimmers and shifts. It's like a bubble forming around us. A bluish grey tinges everything beyond it. The statues of Jesus and St. Antoine de Padoue waver and fade, and I blink because I can't believe what I am seeing. There's this buzzing that grows into a deafening, ear shattering roar, and with it, a terrible tornado of wind begins to spiral around us.

Once again we are encouraged to visit Canada's past through time travel in a novel for children ages 9 to 12. This time we are off to Riel's Batoche in May 1885.

      Max (a.k.a. James Maxwell Dory V), the story's main character, and his siblings, Liam and Kaeleigh, are with their Gram on a day trip (on the summer solstice) to the historic site of Batoche where they encounter Izzy Pilon, a descendant of the Métis who participated in the Rebellion of 1885. Izzy tours the siblings through the graveyard commenting on some of the headstones and the historical significance of those buried there. Here, readers learn that, as in Max's case, the name Isadore Pilon (Izzy) has been passed down to the first born male in each generation. Izzy has duties to perform as a tour guide/fiddle player and suggests the siblings wait in the church for him. Max and Liam are particularly eager to explore the church and are fascinated by the bullet holes left by the battle. As luck would have it, they are the only tourists in the church, and Liam wastes no time jumping over the communion rail to explore the angels on the altar. His touch causes the wings of one of the angels to open revealing a hidden compartment containing a pocket watch. Max winds the watch three times, and the siblings become engulfed in a time travel bubble. Just as they are being whisked away into Batoche of 1885, Max sees their fiddle playing friend Izzy in the door frame of the church.

      In Batoche of 1885, the siblings meet up with the Izzy of that generation. When the 1885 Izzy sees them, he quotes: "In time three strangers will come to Batoche, watch for them for they are key", suggesting some foreknowledge of their arrival. He helps them find suitable clothing and invites them into his home for meals. The siblings become embroiled in the rebellion and run the risk of changing history in order to convince Riel he should go forward with the cause. After many adventures and delays, the children manage to return to the church just in time to return to the modern day Batoche.

      There are some interesting twists in the story; for example, the children are being stalked by a man in 1885 Batoche who turns out to be another time traveller, a buccaneer, who is using the watch to travel back in time to profit from stolen artifacts. There is a reference to Maurice Richard as Max leaves his beloved Maurice Richard hockey card with the Batoche Izzy. This hockey card becomes the touchstone for the future generations of Izzy Pilons as the secret story of the strangers and the card is passed on from one Izzy to the next, explaining why modern day Izzy is not surprised by the disappearance of the siblings from the church.

      There is not much new in the realm of time travel in this book, although I do like the complication added by the fellow time traveller. The siblings seem very well versed in the rules of time travel for what appears to be their first foray into this activity. I cannot imagine anyone carrying around a Maurice Richard hockey card; mine would be under lock and key at all times. I found some of the historical bits challenging, even after having read some Batoche history this summer - coincidentally before being asked to review this title. I think the tricky historical bits will make this a more challenging read than is intended given the reading level.

      For schools and libraries looking for another book in the genre of time travel into Canadian history, Back to Batoche should be considered.

Recommended with Reservations.

Ruth McMahon, a professional librarian working in a Middle School library, has two teenage daughters.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.
Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364
Hosted by the University of Manitoba.

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